USDA National Wildlife Research Center Symposia


Date of this Version

August 1995


We often are unable to reduce wildlife damage because of our inability to apply a repellent directly to the plant, animal, or item that needs protection. Conditioned food aversions based on deception (CFABD) is one method that can be used to extend protection to these items (hereafter called models). In CFABD, the model is not treated; instead mimics of the model are created and then treated with a chemical that will sicken, but not kill, the animal consuming them. This approach is a reverse form of Batesian mimicry; normally the models are poisonous and the mimics are innocuous. Yet, the behavioral and ecological principles governing Batesian mimicry should also apply to CFABD. For instance, in both Batesian mimicry and CFABD, models and mimics must be indistinguishable to the predator before it will generalize an aversion from poisonous to palatable prey. Unfortunately, mimics have not been similar to models in many attempts to use CFABD, and, not surprisingly, the results have been negative. Based on our knowledge of Batesian mimicry, I hypothesize that if mimics and models are indistinguishable, animals will stop consuming models when the costs (in terms of illness) of making a mistake and consuming a poisonous mimic outweigh the nutritional benefits of consuming a model. This implies that key variables affecting the success of CFABD include illness severity, nutritional value of the model, ratio of mimics to models, and alternate sources of nutrients.